Sunday, July 23, 2017

Screw the Poor: Unplanned Parenthood

It has been the cornerstone of the Evangelical right and now a most basic GOP policy plank: end abortion-access, reverse Roe v Wade and defund Planned Parenthood. During his presidential run, Donald Trump hammered at how his appointment of ultra-conservative judges and how his “repeal and replace” for Obamacare would implement these prerogatives and purposely decimate federal funding for what too many Evangelicals believe is nothing more than an abortion mill, Planned Parenthood. Thousands of screaming Trump supporters squealed in delight at rallies everywhere. To them, sex education and family planning counselling were now abstinence-driven (skirting birth control methods) and favoring live birth as the only viable result for pregnancy. And soon all those nasty family-issues would merely reflect the wishes of a minority of right wing voters… at the expense of everyone else.
Most such “defund Planned Parenthood” supporters are unfamiliar with the fed’s Hyde Amendment, a 1976 federal law “barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Legislation, including the Hyde Amendment, generally restricts the use of funds allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services  and consequently has significant effects involving Medicaid recipients. Medicaid currently serves approximately 6.5 million women in the United States, including 1 in 5 women of reproductive age (women aged 15–44).” Wikipedia. Days after Donald Trump took his oath of office, “On January 24, 2017, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7, which, according to the press office of Speaker Paul Ryan, ‘makes the Hyde amendment permanent.’” Wikipedia.
But as the GOP Congress and the President battle each other over healthcare reform, slammed by medical experts from insurance carriers to hospitals and doctors along with angry constituents, one solidly Republican state – Iowa – decided to lead the battle against Planned Parenthood last year. Indeed, while there are provisions everywhere in proposed federal legislation to defund Planned Parenthood – from the failing “repeal and replace” or just “repeal” bills to federal budget cuts and even a separate bill sponsored by Iowa’s U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-obviously) – it should come as no surprise that Iowa has already been there and done that.
In May [2016], then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a new budget bill that rejected $3 million in federal Medicaid dollars for the Iowa Family Planning Network (IFPN) waiver—partial insurance for low-income patients that covers reproductive care—and replaced it with a state-run family planning program that forbids recipients from using it for care at providers, like Planned Parenthood, that also offer abortions. [As noted above, Federal money has not been able to be used for abortions for decades]. As a result of this new budget, on July 1—the day this new law went into effect—4 of Iowa’s 12 Planned Parenthood clinics… closed, leaving the bottom third of the state without a Planned Parenthood clinic.” Hannah Levintova writing for, July 18th. Iowa-just-gutted-planned-parenthood-and-the-results-for-women-are-brutal/
What followed was total chaos and an unmitigated disaster for a rather large proportion of the state’s lower income women of childbearing age. It is also a glimpse into what the entire nation will look like, particularly in red states that are unlikely to lift a finger to support their poorer constituents, if Trump and the Republican Congress get their way and purge any remaining federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that is hardly the “abortion mill” that their accusers maintain. The results were pretty nasty almost immediately. Thousands of women are now without any family care at all.
“Hardest-hit are low-income patients, particularly those in Iowa’s rural Southeast, where hardly any other reproductive health care providers will take their insurance: As of this writing, the state’s new family planning program provider list includes no OB/GYN specialty providers in Burlington, Keokuk or in neighboring Louisa and Muscatine Counties. Three providers are listed in Quad Cities—two are midwives.
“Some Iowa lawmakers raised the alarm about the lack of viable options before the bill passed. In a January hearing, democratic state Sen. Janet Petersen asked her Republican colleague Sen. Jeff Elders to discuss alternatives in his district that could offer reproductive health care; he could not name any, replying ‘more access’ before shutting off his microphone…
“Officials eventually released several lists of proposed alternatives. An initial list offered by a state senator to a reporter included a dentist, a school nurse, and a homeless shelter. A different list from the Iowa health department obtained by the Des Moines Register in May had 219 proposed alternative providers; many were duplicates and dozens are run by the Catholic Mercy Health Network, which does not offer intrauterine devices or other long-acting contraceptives, and will only prescribe oral birth control to treat ‘medical conditions’ —doublespeak meaning they won’t offer voluntary contraception. As of July 17, the Iowa health department’s list of providers had only 73 approved OB/GYN providers for the entire state. More than a third were duplicates. (When I asked the Iowa health department whether they anticipated that these OB/GYN providers would be sufficient to meet the reproductive health care needs of patients on the family planning program, they declined to answer.)
“The replacement plan is also a fiscal double whammy: Iowa is giving up millions in federal money and plugging the hole with state taxpayer dollars—while facing a $117 million budget shortfall. ‘Yet Republican lawmakers avoided getting into these thorny money questions while advancing their plan. Said one senator: ‘We are committed to getting the money from somewhere.’ Before the proposal was folded into an appropriations bill, its main sponsor, state Sen. Amy Sinclair, said, ‘This is a policy bill strictly. I do not deal with the financial aspects.’
“As Democratic Sen. Matt McCoy summed this up on the Senate floor: ‘So we’re gutting a program that is currently federally-funded and replacing it with an unspecified amount of money from an unspecified place,’ he said. ‘That scares me.’” Hannah Levintova
We all should be scared. This nascent GOP notion that it’s OK to leave the most vulnerable Americans – lower income, older pre-Medicare constituents and people with pre-existing conditions – without access to medical care and/or counseling… is shocking if not out-and-out barbaric. Leave them twisting in the wind to suffer and even die? No empathy. Greedy and totally pushing income inequality towards even more polarization. Does this sound like the party of Abraham Lincoln… or a betrayal of his most fundamental values? And for those Evangelicals who embrace these callous policies, might I suggest that they re-read (or just plain read if they haven’t before) the New Testament!
I’m Peter Dekom, and if you don’t care about ordinary Americans, do you really care about America at all?

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